Mr. Bush’s War: An International Disaster

George Bush–along with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz–have led this nation into one of the great disasters of the last century. This war now threatens to become a war between Islam and the West. When Mr. Bush used 9/11 as a pretext for invading Iraq, a nation at peace with the United States, a nation who in no way participated in the attack on New York and the Pentagon, he engendered tribal and religious war and put us unnecessarily in civil strife within Islam. We now know that Mr. Bush had planned for this war against Iraq long before 9/11. When we easily toppled Suddham Hussein’s government, under international law the United States, as an occupying army, became responsible for keeping the peace. Very foreseeably, we simply set loose the tribal and sectarian violence between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish populations in Iraq. In no way was Bush prepared to maintain the peace. He has let loose the hounds of war. No one has any sure-fire successful way to exit this catastrophe he has caused.

Mr. Bush will not be successful in creating a democratic state in the context of the civil war he started. The history of the creation of nation-states in the West, leading to democratic societies in what was previously medieval Christiandom, played out over centuries. After the Treaties of Westphalia and Utrecht ended the Wars of Religion of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, previously feudal religiously- based nations evolved into secular territorial nation-states. The Enlightenment, experienced in the history of the West, but not in Islam, saw the evolution of these states into secular states. With the exception of modern Turkey, there is no Islamic state with such secularity. We in the West lack the capacity, or the right, to demand such a course for Islam. Such pretentiousness is hubris of the highest order. Only an intellectual and moral moron would attempt such a flight into the sun. Beware the karmic kick-back.

Tragically, the longer the United States remains as an occupying power in Iraq, the more the individuality of what happens in Iraq becomes a war between civilizations. We in the West see our national identity as primary, in the main. Likely we think of ourselves as Americans first, then come tribal and religious and ethnic identities. This is the evolution of the West, from Westphalia and Utrecht to secular territorial and pluralistic natlon- states, our Rule of (secular) Law communities. Islamic communities of the Middle East are among the most ancient and honored civilizations in history. Iraq is uniquely the land of the Bible–Of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Iran represents a modern version of the great Persian Empire. But the dividing lines of these modern states were determined by the English and the French after World War I ended with the Versailles Treaty, which has been aptly named the “Peace to End All Peace.” The victors, after the First World War and then the Second, simply demanded Western rights to oil. After the Second World War, the United States entered into this feeding frenzy for oil and imperial war when England, bankrupted by two world wars in the same century, passed much of their responsibility and so-called rights of oil to us.

The Islamic communities are likely to place their loyalties to the local tribal and familial ties–Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish–and a universal identification with Islam. So powerful populations exist throughout Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan and beyond, which identify with their tribal kin in each of these states, much more profoundly than with the nation-state whose boundaries, after all, were established by Western governments after both world wars. When we toppled Saddam Hussein, these primal loyalties–at the most tribal local level and again at the universal (Islamic) level, of course prevailed, rather than their identity derived from their placement within the boundaries of the state in which they happen to reside. No amount of violence, blood, lives, treasure, will change this. Such change comes about in centuries, not months or years.

Every day we remain in Iraq we lose ground. The United States–and surely Mr. Bush–is now roundly hated throughout the Islamic world and in about every nation in Europe. The dynamics of the most powerful nation in the world and the leader of the West occupying and destroying Iraq simply spreads violence into every state that possesses television, radio, and the internet. The predictable response of Mr. Bush to the war in Lebanon only cements this vision. Mr. Bush’s war against Islam. Israel is the greatest military power is the Middle East, by far. No combination of Arab or Islamic states of the region can match them. But Hezbollah fought them to a stand-still. The world saw the United States supplying Israel. The Israelis had the right of self-defense. But by mimicking Mr. Bush’s plans for war, clearly Hezbollah gained power enormously by the violence used against them. We will face the whirlwind of such violence that Mr. Bush’s war has sown.

Edwin Brown Firmage (website, bio)
Samuel D. Thurman Professor of Law, Emeritus
University of Utah College of Law Salt Lake City, Utah

  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on August 17, 2006 - 10:27 am

    Foreign policy seldom amounts to much as an election issue unless there’s a war on. Prior to taking office in 2001, Bush had little knowledge or interest in other nations, with the possible exception of Mexico. Also, no journalist thought to ask him about Al Qaeda or if he was planning an illegal invasion of Iraq (which was on the agenda at Bush’s very first National Security Council meeting). Because the public isn’t involved, foreign policy tends to be run by cliques who may or may not know what they are doing.

  2. #2 by Elisha Haas on August 21, 2006 - 11:35 am

    two comments:
    1. There is no realtion whatsoever between current cultures in the Arab countries and the ancient cultures. the Islamic conquest pushed the area a millenium backwords.
    2. Egypt alone has a militry power larger than Israel’s. Israel is endangered by a coalition of 22 Arab states that out number it by a ratio of 50:1. Egypt is preparing for a war against Israel from the first day that the “peace treaty” was signed. Israel has survived so far, only due to the sacrifice of its people. not by its power.
    Hizbulla is a long arm of Iran, many Iranians are fighting in Lebanon and some were killed.

    Isreal is the only nation on earth that other nations speak laudly of their plans to exterminate all of its Jewish population. No one does any real step to avoid it. Isreal is alone under danger of extermination. Mr. Hammnai declared not long ago that even if Israel succeed to retaliate and kills 15 million Iranians, it is small cost for the benefit of killing all of hte 5 million Jews. the free world is indifferent.

    it is the moral duty of the free world to support the struggle of the threatened small nation which is attacked only due to its religion. unfortunately only Mr. Bush has the courage to show the moral stand of defending a threatened nation. the rest of the free world behaves not differently than it did 65 years ago. History is learned in order to know how to act in davance, not to lament tool late.

    It is a shame on the European countries that enforced a cease fire and now refuse to send the forces to face Hizbulla. Meanwhile Hizbulla is back on Israel’s border and the next attack is just a matter of time.

    criticiszing Bush for not leaving Israel alone under attack, as did former US presidents and all of the “enlightened” European countries, is immoral!

  3. #3 by Ed Firmage on August 22, 2006 - 9:43 am

    I’m pleased that Mr. Haas would respond to my article. My article should not be read as pomoting the abandonment of Israel. I note Israel’s right of self-defense. And the object of my criticizm is Mr. Bush and his war in Iraq. However, I believe that all modern states often act with a cavalier attitude in invoking violence, most especially the massive indiscriminate violence produced by modern weapons. The effects of violence never seem to work out of the international or regional parts of the world. The Middle East, the Balkans, and Asian parts of the former Soviet Union reflect this phenomenon of violence, one unleashed, never again coming go rest. The blood ties, the kin, the tribal nature of prime relationships is just one part of this phenomenon. This observation is critical to my paper. Though only mentioned in the closing sentences of my paper, Israel’s response to Hezb ollah inLebanon is a very different matter. My very limited point in that regard is that our war in Irag has made things inexpressibly more difficult for Israel and her neighbors, not the opposite. Even though Bush supporters, at the beginning of our invasion of Iraq, trumpeted that our conquering Iraq would open up diologue between the Arab states and Iran with Israel. As they blithely put it, “the road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad.” Unfortunately, the inability of the United States to bring order and peace to the area, through the use of massive military force, only creates more hatred, empowers more Hamas and Hezbollah, and insures that that hatred so engendered spirals even further beyond our control. Ed Fimage

  4. #4 by Elisha Haas on August 23, 2006 - 3:19 pm

    thanks for the reply. but please note, the problem of world today is that the world of Islam percives the west as a degenerate entity and therefore easy prey and therefore they could not care less for negotiations of any kind. they head towards Europe and then the USA if Allah would help them.
    Isreal is attacked as a religious duty from teh Koran. it is attacked in order to be destroyed.
    this is the first course. Europe is the main course on the list.
    The west shoudl wake up now, before it is too late.

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